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Introduction to Character Composites

Lesson 6 of 14

Creating Depth


Introduction to Character Composites

Lesson 6 of 14

Creating Depth


Lesson Info

Creating Depth

next we want to do is create some depth in our image because one thing that makes you crazy and composites is having a background that is as sharp or sharper than your subject, especially if you're buying stock online. A lot of times the stock is going to be sharper than your image if it was shot with a sharper lens and so on and so forth. So we're going to handle that and a few other things now. One thing I didn't cover was why I chose this background specifically well, my subject. I photographed with a 1 35 millions and the background I shot with my 200 sigma. Um, so my 1 35 millions is quite sharp. My Sigma 72 200 sport is super sharp. Um, so these are things that I always want to keep in mind. What I'm doing this. So I did shoot my subject compressed, and my background is a little bit more compressed, but it's I mean, in this case here, we're not really going to notice it too much where it really gets obvious, as if we have 70 shot at 35 Mills like this where they're reaching forwa...

rd and the hands are super huge. Uh, and the background is this, like, super compressed, super flat subject or background. It just looks weird. Like it takes the viewer out of side of the story. Even people who don't really about photography, something in the brain, because we're looking at reality all the time, something in their brain goes like something's wrong. So anyways, so my background is shot with a super sharp lends. My subject is sharp with a shot with a pretty sharp blend. So we have to really work around this, make it make sense. So the first thing that I'm gonna do is remember how was mentioning this dark line down here? I think I'm going to get rid of that. So I'm gonna hit the unlinked mask button here, this little like link. So right now, if I go to my move tool, um, my background and mask moves at the same time. If I go unlinked mask now, I can just move the mask or I can click on my rocks layer and just move the rocks layer. My subject stays masked the same. So I want to go to control our command t on your keyboard. I'm just gonna pull this down a little bit. I am stretching it just a little bit more, but well, so the reason why I'm doing this is because I noticed that dark shadow line was really just pulling my eyes down into, um just kept pulling my eye down and I was looking at it, and I was like, I don't really like this, So I stopped and I fixed it. Now there's this little tiny thing here in our mask that we're gonna see. So always be careful when you're masking that your horizontal lines don't start peeking through where they shouldn't be. So I'm just going to get rid of some of those. I don't have to get rid of them all. They want to get rid of some of them. Just because horizontal lines sneaking through your masks always looks like there's a subject that added in behind it Always keep that in mind. Now our subject or our rock layer, I guess the first thing I'm gonna do there's two steps to This is how I like to work it. So first things first, I'm going to go into adobe camera and go control shift or command shift A on your keyboard that's gonna pop this into a CR and I'm just gonna drop the clarity and texture slider just a tiny little bit. Um and that will be like, step one for me. Then I'm gonna go, okay? And I'm going to duplicate this. I'm gonna call this rocks Blur. Now, why do I like using mhm texture and clarity? Well, because So this is what it looks like before, and this is what looks like after. So these edges here there still exists. There still, they're still sharp, right? I just have less detail here. So now if I'm looking at my subject right, he already but without even using any blurring looks sharper than my background. Um, and it also does add, like a little bit of atmospheric stuff to it adds a little bit of atmospheric blurring, which I kind of dig. But if we photograph the subject on location, even at f 11, our background would be still a little bit softer. So I'm gonna go here to my rocks blur, layer, filter, blur. I'm gonna go to box blur, so box blur I like. It's just one of these effects that I find very, very pleasing. And how I like to choose which blur I'm going to be picking is I just go to a part of the subject here, Uh, and I play with you know what? I want three pixels or five pixels. Five pixels for me. It starts looking like digital art because digital blur just looks like digital blur. Um, and it looks weird. So, in this case here, I want to go with three pixels. I think I think that's going to look the best because I don't need this to look like we shot this at f 2.8, right? I mean, I did photograph my subject in the studio at F 11, So, um, yeah, I don't want this to look. I mean, some people love that look in post production, you know, where they're just like, Oh, yeah. Background is so far away. And, like, look at how soft and smooth and buttery it is, but to me, it just looks like digital art. Uh, so and I mean, I know this is going to look like digital art me into, but, um It's just a thing that I noticed in composites, and it kind of bugs me. Now, one of the things that wouldn't be as blurred Um are these little parts of the clouds here because these clouds are technically a little bit more forward. So I'm gonna let these clouds be affected only by the texture and clarity adjustment sliders. So I'm going to go to our brush, and I'm just gonna grab a software and brush. So this is one of the areas where software and brush is actually the right tool for the job. I am going to go control, click on our subject. So control click gives us our dancing ants because I don't want to affect the mask on my subject. I just want to affect the background itself. And I'm just going to quickly mask out some of these clouds because I also don't want these clouds are closer to the subject. If we were to photograph it on location, um, then the actual, uh, rocks itself. So I want to make sure that that dimension is still in there. I mean, it's it's super subtle, but it's just kind of this thing that I like when I make these kind of images that if there is dimension in the sky, then I try to make sure that I don't blur everything the exact same. I want to make sure that there's like, some stacking going on so control D or command d to deselect that and let's see if we made a good choice or not. So that's before the Blur and after, and I think that looks nice. We don't think it's distracting. I guess that's pretty good. Yeah, so that is creating a little bit of depth in Photoshop here and with our subject. And what have you got going on next? Next, we're going to paint a ton of rain on our subject. So this is where you got masking those tedious. Wait till we get to adding the texture on the subject that it actually looks like he's an Iranian environment

Class Description


  • Style a compelling character.
  • Extract subject and replace background.
  • Use textures and brushes to bring the subject into the image.
  • Add a realistic atmospheric element.
  • Color grade in Adobe Camera Raw.


We can’t always shoot portraits in our dream locations. Sometimes we go to amazing places on vacation, or we find some great stock imagery online, and we want to transport our clients to somewhere special. For some artists, the most interesting places to create come from within.

For Renee, character portraits lean heavily on a compelling subject, something rooted in reality. In this class you will be guided through her process to style, pose, and hand paint texture and light to emphasize a portrait of a cowboy.

Take your studio portraits from clean and simple to compelling and eye catching!


  • Beginner and Intermediate Photographers
  • Portrait photographers interested in compositing
  • Beginner and Intermediate composite artists
  • Artists interested in advancing their styling choices


Adobe Photoshop 2019 (20.0.6)
Adobe Camera Raw


  1. Introduction

    Introduction to the class and overview

  2. Lighting and Concept

    A quick guide to where the concept came from for the image and the lighting used.

  3. Cropping

    Changing the aspect ratio of the image to make a more pleasing composition.

  4. Bringing in the New Background

    Picking a proper background image and using the transform tool to fit it to the new crop.

  5. Masking

    Using Select Subject and different hand masking techniques to create a seamless blend between subject and background.

  6. Creating Depth

    Using a variety of techniques to create visual depth between the subject and background replacement.

  7. Painting Wet Rain on Costuming

    Creating different layers of brush marks to make the illusion of wet costuming, of someone standing in the rain.

  8. Creating Rain Drops

    Creating realistic raindrops and atmospheric depth from static pixels.

  9. Rain Touch Ups

    Final touch ups on the costume to finalize the look of standing in the rain.

  10. Color Grading

    Color grading using Adobe Camera Raw and smart filters.

  11. Sharpening

    Using Smart Sharpen gently sharpen the image.

  12. Saving

    3 different ways to save your image, including save for web.

  13. Summary

    Quick walk through of the layers and progress in the composite.

  14. Outro

    Quick final notes and thanks!


Steve Vick

Great hands-on course. I love Renee's straight forward approach. This is the tool, this is what we are going doing with it and here's how to use it. For me it is the fastest and most practical way to learn. No fluff, no long-winded stories... just doing! In some of the other courses I viewed, I find myself skipping ahead waiting for them to get to the point. But this course has a great pace. I will certainly look for more from this teacher. Thank you.

a Creativelive Student

I've been compositing for a few years, but masking a subject always presents its challenges. Renée gave a series of tips that were very helpful, including information about how to use the "burn" tool to enhance a mask. That's something I'd never done before. Can't wait to try it! The part of the lesson that explained how to make the subject look as though his clothes had been in the rain was also an eye-opener. The method is simple, but the results are outstanding. I had tried making my subjects look as though they had been rained on, but it never looked real. Now I know how to fix that!

Julie Holbeche-Maund

Brilliant Class. I love Renee attention to detail and her explanation of what she is going and why.